When MetroSouth hospital in Blue Island closed down last year, area residents worried that losing a major employer and an important health care provider would leave their community in the lurch.
This week, the Army Corps of Engineers is putting the finishing touches on MetroSouth as an alternate care site to handle COVID-19 patients.
“We’ve maximized the use of every available space in this facility to maximize the number of rooms available,” said Col. Aaron Reisinger, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District. He says a facility that once had about 300 beds will now have the capacity for nearly 600 patients.
“For example, the sixth floor used to be an administrative area that had carpets and office spaces. We ripped all that out, completely converted it to make it available for COIVD-19 patients,” he said.
Reisinger said it helped that the alternate care site was a hospital just a few months ago—having those bones in place helped move the project along. But he says the newly revived space will be focused solely on COVID-19 patients.
“This is an outlet for the existing hospital network to be able to move patients to in a deliberate way to continue their proper care. This will not be a facility that you will be able to drive up to and be seen,” Reisinger said.
Plenty of people in the community, including area legislators, hope that after the worst of the pandemic passes, MetroSouth will once again function as a hospital.
“There’s a definite need for an emergency room. Last year the emergency room had almost 50,000 emergency room visits which is a very busy emergency room,” said state Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island), who introduced legislation to keep MetroSouth running as a hospital. “It’s not only the south suburbs. We sit right here on the border of Chicago. It’s serving the South Side of Chicago and the south suburbs.”